The Last Hiccup                        

     Read an excerpt below ...

            by Christopher Meades      


Winner of the 2013 Canadian Author's Association Award for Fiction

A darkly funny, tragic, and ultimately heroic novel set in 1930s Russia, The Last Hiccup is the story of Vladimir, an eight-year-old boy stricken with a case of the hiccups that lasts over a decade.
Put through a series of extraordinary, often bizarre treatments by a famous physician, Sergei  Namestikov, Vlad is spirited away from his rural home and doting mother to a hospital in Moscow. But Sergei’s chief medical rival, the brilliant Alexander Afiniganov, believes that beneath Vladimir’s mirror-less eyes lurks a pure, unbridled evil, and Vlad is removed from polite society.
Isolated from everyone and everything — save his hiccups — Vladimir grows up to find inner peace among the hiccupping. On his way back into the world he once knew, through a country now in the midst of war, he encounters many strange people and situations, always wondering what would happen to him should a cure for his now-comforting affliction be found.

In June 2013, The Last Hiccup won the CAA award for Fiction. 

CAA Judges’ Comments: "The Last Hiccup is an episodic novel reminiscent of Chaucer’s Tales or the Decameron. At the heart of the story is a hiccup, or more specifically, a boy with the hiccups… This surrealistic novel takes us through the misadventures of Vladimir and along the way the reader gets a good look at society’s foibles. The writing is exquisite, the language poetic and fresh. Although the story takes place in 1930s Russia, it feels very relevant to our times."

Other authors who have won the Canadian Author's Award for Fiction include: Margaret Atwood, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Alistair MacLeod, Will Ferguson, Tom Rachman, Patrick deWitt and Douglas Coupland.

An excerpt from The Last Hiccup

Chapter 5

The next day Vladimir was transferred from the hospital’s main wing to the mental health ward. An attendant carried the heavily sedated boy along the same snow-covered cobblestone path where the doctors had taken their walk. Sergei could hardly bear to watch them remove his patient. He stood at his office window, partially shielding his eyes, partially looking straight on in defiance as young Vlad was taken through the front doors of the psychiatric unit. Secretly Sergei feared that Vladimir might not make it out of that building alive.

During the course of Sergei’s residency, the mental health ward had been the least organized, worst funded and most chaotic department in the entire hospital. Patients, some of whom were severely demented and quite dangerous, were allowed to roam the halls free of supervision. Violent incidents in that ward were nearly a hundred times more common than in the main building. Several times when the drugs used to sedate the lunatics were in short supply, the inhabitants had attempted a coup against the hospital staff. Outnumbering their captors thirty to one, the patients had the means to overtake the ward. Yet they could never manage to organize themselves well enough. Inevitably, each fracas would end with a single inmate screaming in frustration over the inability of the others to complete even the simplest of tasks. After all, how difficult is it to behead a nurse? Sergei shook his head. The hospital simply did not have the funds to properly equip or staff the building. He said a silent prayer for Vladimir, then left for the night, hoping to find the boy alive tomorrow.

When Sergei arrived at work the next morning, Vladimir had already been returned to his bed in the main wing. Apparently, the sound of his hiccupping had caused an uproar in the asylum. The inmates, even those who had no history of violence, became enraged when Vladimir would not stop yelping. A chair was thrown through a glass partition. Next a garbage can was set on fire. This was followed by young Vladimir being stuffed headfirst into a second garbage can. Several of the schizophrenics were planning to light Vladimir on fire. Severely outnumbered, the hospital staff were powerless to intervene. Mere moments before he was set ablaze, the boy was saved by a rogue faction of patients, some who believed his hiccupping was a communication from God and others who appreciated the pure musicality of the noise. A full-blown violent conflict erupted. When it was finally over and Vladimir had been rescued, a number of the victors declared him their divine savior while others simply wanted to dance to his beat. In total, there were eleven broken limbs, seven critical injuries, one beheaded nurse and a litany of damages totaling the equivalent of the mental health ward’s annual budget....



"An allegorical tale ripe with symbolism...Meades reveals himself a gifted writer, deft with descriptions splashing surrealistic images." - Kirkus Reviews

"A strange and surprisingly touching novel about how people find good and evil where they look for them." — Booklist Reviews

"Wickedly admirable portrayal of an unlikely hero trying to find his way in an absurd world. This novel will amuse and touch lovers of original literature, both light and serious."
- Library Journal Review

"I absolutely loved this book...a masterful story about curiosity and adventure."-
Broken Pencil Reviews

"A beautifully written novel, part folk tale, part parable, caught between inhalation and exhalation, like a hiccup in the throat."
Will Ferguson (winner of the 2012 Giller Prize for 419)

"Each sentence in The Last Hiccup is a tiny masterpiece."
— Robin Spano (author of Dead Politician Society)